Quick hits (part II)

1) EJ Dionne on tax law, “Republicans are joining a festival of corruption.”

2) Greg Sargent on Trump’s advantages over Nixon:

Yet Trump will be benefiting from a very powerful and far-reaching network of media propaganda on his behalf — one that casts all these ongoing efforts to subject Trump to basic accountability as fundamentally illegitimate — that is nothing like anything Nixon had at his disposal. And the ramifications of that for our country are, at present, a big unknown.

I ran this idea by Julian Zelizer, a historian at Princeton who specializes in the political history of the 1960s and 1970s. Zelizer agreed that Trump is set to benefit from a “massive propaganda” effort, “via cable television, via websites, and via Twitter,” that didn’t exist when Nixon targeted the Watergate special prosecutor during his Saturday Night Massacre.

“Whatever Mueller does, Trump’s allies have a huge bully pulpit, where the message from his perspective is constantly circulating, regardless of what the investigators do,” Zelizer told me. “Nixon never had anything comparable to that.”

Zelizer noted that at the time, the media was already in full investigative mode due to the Vietnam War. “It was a media controlled by three networks and a handful of major city papers,” Zelizer said. “The state of the media was adversarial.” The result, Zelizer said, was that once the Saturday Night Massacre came down, “there weren’t many people who wanted to cover it from Nixon’s perspective,” and the story was covered as a “constitutional crisis” brought about by Nixon’s conduct.

This is decidedly different from the current landscape, in which huge numbers of Americans are being fed a dramatically different tale about Trump and the Mueller investigation from the one unfolding in the real world.

3) This is actually a really interesting take on what is dividing America from Jonathan Haidt, as he focuses on centripetal and centrifugal forces.  That said, as far as the forces dividing America, as many have pointed out, it’s kind of insane that he spends just an obligatory paragraph on Republican extremism before going on and on about the campus left.  I think he makes a number of legitimate arguments about the campus left, but he so needs to place this in a more realistic context and perspective, rather than making it seem that campus liberals are the greatest threat to America.

4) David Frum on conservatism’s response to Trump:

The core of [National Review’s Charles] Cooke’s indictment is this: [Jennifer] Rubin’s universal distrust of Trump should be seen as the inverse of the mindless praise for Trump’s vagaries elsewhere in the conservative world…

Rubin’s crime is that rather than waking up every morning fresh for each day’s calling of balls and strikes, she carries into her work the memory of the day before. She sees patterns where Cooke sees only incidents. She speaks out even when Cooke deems it prudent to hold his tongue.

In this course, Cooke is following the Republican leadership in the House and Senate and the more presentable of the conservative commentariat: Hope for the best. Make excuses where you can. When you can’t make an excuse, keep as quiet as you can. Attack Trump’s critics in the media and Hollywood when all else fails. That has also become the working position of many conservatives who in 2015 and 2016 called themselves “Never Trump.”…

The conservative intellectual world is whipsawed between distaste for President Trump and fear of its own audience. The conservative base has become ever more committed to Trump—and ever less tolerant of any deviation. Those conservative talkers most susceptible to market pressure—radio and TV hosts—have made the most-spectacular conversions and submissions: Mark Levin, Tucker Carlson…

Conservatism is what conservatives think, say, and do. As conservatives change—as much through the harsh fact of death and birth as by the fluctuations of opinion—so does what it means to be a conservative.

The Trump presidency is a huge political fact. Donald Trump may not be the leader of American conservatism, but he is its most spectacular and vulnerable asset. The project of defending him against his coming political travails—or at least of assailing those who doubt and oppose him—is already changing what it means to be a conservative. The word conservative will of course continue in use. But its meaning is being rewritten each day by the actions of those who lay claim to the word. It is their commitment to Trump that etches Trumpism into them. And while Trump may indeed pass, that self-etching will not soon be effaced.


6) Didn’t quite agree with Alyssa Rosenberg, but her take that “it’s time to stop grading Star Wars movies on a curve” was really interesting.

7) I hadn’t before really thought about the fact that Lawrence Kasdan was the screenwriter for two of my very favorite movies– Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Really enjoyed this interview with him upon his work on The Force Awakens.

8) I don’t think HQ Trivia is leading us to a dystopia, but since I’ve really enjoyed playing it since learning of it in the NYT, I’m linking this anyway.

9) Now, this was really interesting… how the climategate email hack presaged the work of the Russians on the DNC.

Podesta, a leading advocate of climate action during the Obama years, describes Climategate as an early example of hackers conspiring “to take the fruits of illegal behavior, weaponize them, then use them in a political context.” And though the emails contained no evidence of scientific misconduct, Podesta notes, climate change deniers successfully used them to “change public perception and increase skepticism about the need for action at a pivotal moment.”…

On November 20, a New York Times front-page story opened by noting that skeptics “say [the emails] show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.” The Washington Post quoted climate skeptic Myron Ebell—who would later run Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team—as saying the emails exposed an “alarmist political agenda.” The Post even ran an op-ed by Sarah Palin, who claimed that scientists had “manipulated data to ‘hide the decline’ in global temperatures.”

Television coverage was even worse. NBC told viewers that “those who doubt that man-made greenhouse gases are changing the climate say these emails…show climate scientists massaging data.” ABC inaccurately claimed that “one of the most damning email exchanges credits Mann with a trick to hide the decline in temperatures.”

10) So jealous of my colleague Mark Nance.  Not for getting into the Nobel Prize awards ceremony, but for getting his Op-Ed about it (with wife Sarah Bowen) in the NYT.

11) Cops act egregiously horribly (that was tea, not marijuana!), but vindicated by Appeals Court.  Because… America.  Radley Balko:

So I actually agree with the attorney for the sheriff’s office. When its own actors are accused of wrongdoing, the justice system has been designed not to dispense justice, but to put a priority on protecting police, public officials and government entities from accountability.

So, yes. The system did work. It did just what it was designed to do. And that makes these stories all the more worrying.

12) Really enjoyed this interview in Vox about Baby Boomers:

Sean Illing

So what’s your explanation for the awfulness of the boomers? What made them this way?

Bruce Gibney

I think there were a number of unusual influences, some of which won’t be repeated, and some of which may have mutated over the years. I think the major factor is that the boomers grew up in a time of uninterrupted prosperity. And so they simply took it for granted. They assumed the economy would just grow three percent a year forever and that wages would go up every year and that there would always be a good job for everyone who wanted it.

This was a fantasy and the result of a spoiled generation assuming things would be easy and that no sacrifices would have to be made in order to preserve prosperity for future generations.

Sean Illing

I’ve always seen the boomers as a generational trust-fund baby: They inherited a country they had no part in building, failed to appreciate it, and seized on all the benefits while leaving nothing behind.

Bruce Gibney

I think that’s exactly right. They were born into great fortune and had a blast while they were on top. But what have they left behind?

13) I went down a bit of a “neoliberalism” rabbit whole this week thanks to Cornell West’s attack on Ta-Nahesi Coates.  This was one of the better essays I read on the matter of neoliberalism.

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